The clock is ticking on the NHL to have any realistic chance to restart the 2019-20 regular season and get a playoff format rolled out later this summer.
As some sports are gradually returning to competitive action, like UFC and Nascar, the NHL continues to be in a tough box to break out of when it comes to restarting their season.
The NHL paused their regular season in mid-March with 189 games remaining in its regular season among all of the teams, and that’s what really makes this restart complicated.
As it pertains to the Nashville Predators, that narrowly got into a wildcard spot after winning their last played game over the Montreal Canadiens on March 10th, right before the league paused.
The latest developments
It’s looking like if play resumes, the Predators will either be in the playoff field or have a chance to do some sort of a play-in series to get into a 16-team playoff format.
As complicated as things are, progress is being made by league officials to find a way to get 2019-20 season back underway, per Pierre LeBrun of TSN and the Athletic:
Aside from the 100 percent certainty of the health and safety of everyone involved, the next most important rule of business is making sure this doesn’t turn into some circus that isn’t an even playing field for every team.
A 24-team format that’s being looked at is overdoing it. No matter what happens, this season will always have an asterisk next to it. Get the playoffs rolled out and finished, and let’s move on.
If your ultimate goal is to finish this season out in some fashion, take the top-16 teams based off point percentages and focus on crowning a Stanley Cup champ as quick as possible.
For teams that were right on the doorstep of a playoff spot, better luck next year. You’re probably better off being left out of it as it is.
Full training camp is paramount
Next up is ensuring players have sufficient time to train and prepare for a return to hockey after being on the shelf for the last two months. You can’t force these players back into the physically brutal sport that is hockey unless they have a complete training camp.
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If this doesn’t happen, then we’re going to see injuries regularly when play resumes. This could end up having collateral damage to the NHL and to the teams themselves by losing key pieces to their franchise’s future because the NHL rushed back too soon.
Then we have the issue of players being asked to stay away from their families for extended periods of time in these hub cities. They’re effectively going to be on lockdown while playing out the remainder of these games.
There’s just so much that can go wrong, even though I want hockey back as much as the next diehard fan. But not at the expense of the players’ health, the integrity of the game and the viability of next season.
A date for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft is also expected to be announced very soon. It’s been said that the draft will occur before the season is completed, so we’ll have to see how that affects draft position and the lottery process.
There’s also rumblings that next season is going to be delayed regardless of what happens because the NHL wants fans back in attendance at that time.
If this is the case, then maybe you can squeeze in a postseason late this summer to at least crown a Stanley Cup champion without having to impact next season.
Bob Mckenzie of TSN says that there could only be two cities selected to host the games, with 12 teams based in each one:
Earlier today NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated that the league is looking at eight to nine different sites that could handle hosting up to 12 teams at once to wrap up the season, per NHL.com.
Cities that make sense to be in the running for a host are ones with the infrastructure to handle multiple teams and front offices to travel to and from the selected arena. I’ve seen cities such as Nashville, Edmonton, Vegas and Toronto floated around is top candidates.
My feeling is we’ll have a more concrete outlook on what the NHL is planning by this time next week. They’re starting to come together with a plan, but let’s hope it’s not at the expense of health, player safety and the integrity of the game.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health